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The Many Avenues of Higher Education and Workforce Readiness

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Each May, my family’s calendar shows a similar pattern of weekend events planned for the month: graduations. May is one of my favorite times to celebrate because of the reason behind the celebration. When family, friends, and communities take time to honor someone reaching their goals, it motivates that individual to keep pursuing higher goals and accomplishments in life. It is critical for a graduate to set goals for himself or herself and then determine the education options available for achieving his or her goals. The Texas Legislature has and continues to relentlessly pursue giving graduates all the tools they need to accomplish their educational goals.

Higher education policy and workforce readiness are two of the most critical issues addressed by the Legislature. Not only does a quality education produce a positive future and higher quality of life for an individual but it also creates informed citizens and affects the economic success of Texas.

Workforce readiness had many victories during the 81st Legislative Session. The Legislature created college-ready standards for the state’s K-12 curriculum and aligned end of course exams with higher education expectations. Also, school districts were incentivized to allow more high school students to take college classes. My colleagues and I passed higher education legislation that promotes another national research university in Texas as well as legislation that increases financial assistance and opens doors for more students to be admitted into public universities.

As your State Representative, I will continue to work hard on education policy to give our children and their children’s children the best and most beneficial education options they need to succeed in their chosen career path. Life after high school graduation can look very different for each individual student but each student must choose the path that will help him or her obtain their ultimate career goals. Their options may range from a four year university to community college to career schools. All are proven avenues for education and contribute to a skilled, productive and diversified workforce for Texas.

There are thirty-eight public and forty independent four -year colleges and universities in the state. It is important to retain students who are pursuing academic careers or post-undergraduate education here in Texas. Additionally, the Legislature directed the University Boards of Regents at all public institutions to limit increases in total academic costs charged to resident undergraduate students. The state must make college affordable and provide for a seamless integration into the Texas workforce.

However, many young Texans either desire to enter the workforce immediately after high school or wish to obtain a more field- specific education. That is why Texas is home to fifty community college districts and eighty- three career schools that provide invaluable workforce training in Texas.  Community colleges have experienced significant enrollment growth in the past few years. More students have exercised this option and are utilizing their associate degrees in a specialized field.

One of the best kept education secrets in Texas is our career schools. This year alone roughly 150,000 students are enrolled in a career school. Career schools provide a great opportunity for students to get a certain field -specific training in a short period. Widely viewed as a cost effective educational path, every year career schools promote 50,000 individuals toward a specific career with the tools necessary to immediately enter the workforce.

Congratulations to all the graduating students in May 2010. This is a great life accomplishment and I hope you enjoy celebrating with your family, friends and teachers.  Keep pursuing your dreams and best of luck in whichever proven avenue of education you choose.  As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives, and I welcome any questions or comments you may have on this or any other critical state issues.  Please feel free to call my capitol office at 512.463.0688 or call the district office at 972.724.8477.  You can also send me an email at tan.parker@house.state.tx.us.  Additionally, the first Saturday of every month I hold open office hours from 8 – 10am at my district office located at: 800 Parker Square, Suite 245 Flower Mound, TX 75028.

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